Twenty percent of the California sea lion pups born on San Miguel Island die due to premature parturition. Specimens collected from premature-partus animals resulted in recovery of a virus, San Miguel Sea Lion Virus, indistinguishable from Vesicular Exanthema of Swine Virus, and Leptospira pomona from some of the premature cows and pups. The age range of 10 females delivering healthy pups in June was 10-14 years. With one exception, the ages in 10 aborting females was 6-8 years. The p,p′- DDE levels of the premature parturient cows' blubber and liver were 7.6 and 4.8 times greater, respectively, than corresponding tissue concentrations in the full-term animals. Polychlorinated biphenyls residues were 4.4 and 3.8 times greater in aborting animals' blubber and liver than in the same tissues of full-term sea lions. Premature-partus females had tissue imbalances of mercury, selenium, cadmium and bromine. Pathology, parasitology, serum enzyme and hormone results are also presented. These data suggest an interrelationship of disease agents and environmental contaminants as the cause of premature parturition.

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Author notes


Naval Undersea Center, Undersea Sciences Department, Biomedical Division, San Diego, California 92132, USA.


Marine Mammal Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, Building, 192, Naval Support Activity, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA.


Naval Biomedical Research Laboratory, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


University of California, Bodega Marine Laboratory, Bodega Bay, California 94923, USA.


Zoological Society of San Diego, P.O. Box 551, San Diego, California 92112, USA.


Department of Biology, California State College, Long Beach, California 90804, USA.


Division of Ecology and Systematics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14750, USA.